Sleigh rides, snowball fights, a turquoise-blue alpine lake ringed by snow-capped peaks—try this icicle-trimmed escape for an unforgettable winter getaway.
Note: check winter road conditions before you head out; chains or all-wheel drive and snow tires may be required, and some routes can close in severe weather. For recorded updates, call CalTrans at 800/427-7623.
Directions: From Sacramento, take I-80 east to Auburn. Continue on I-80 to Soda Springs/Norden exit and follow signs ¾-mile to Summit State and Royal Gorge. Return to I-80 and take Exit 186 to Central Truckee. To reach Squaw Valley, return to I-80 and head south to State 89; follow signs for Squaw.
Auburn. Swing through this former mining town to savor a juicy burger and a slice of homemade pie at Ikeda’s, a deluxe fruit stand/café that draws crowds year-round. Stop by the California Welcome Center for details on local history, quick leg-stretches, and winter events.
Royal Gorge. Explore North America’s largest cross-country ski resort , with 100 trails on 9,000 acres of skiable Sierra wilderness. Ski or snowshoe on your own, or join a guided trek or group lesson.
Truckee. Wrap yourself in holiday spirit in this lively mountain town, with twinkling lights in shop windows and snow in the surrounding hills. Catch excellent jazz at Moody’s Bistro & Lounge . Find more wintertime ways to play at the California Welcome Center . Stay the night here, or continue to Squaw Valley.
Directions: From Squaw Valley, take State 89 to Tahoe City. Turn north on State 28 (North Lake Blvd.) and continue around the north end of the lake (you will cross into Nevada) to meet U.S. 50 heading south to Stateline and South Lake Tahoe.
Squaw Valley. Have fun at one of California’s A-list mountain resorts—even if you don’t ski or board. (But if you do, try a huge network of runs ranging from easy Shirley Lake to ultra-expert KT-22.) Take a whirl on the Olympic Ice Pavilion at High Camp then enjoy the après-ski vibe at The Village at Squaw , with shops and restaurants decked out for the season, or take a sleigh ride through the valley.
Tahoe City. This resort town on Lake Tahoe’s north shore goes all out in winter, with après-ski spirit overflowing into restaurants like bustling Christy Hill , just 100 feet above the lake. In March, join the fun during the Snowfest —North Lake Tahoe’s version of Mardi Gras—with parades, live music, parties, and crazy contests for all.
South Lake Tahoe. Take in the razzle-dazzle of Stateline, with lively casinos and top entertainment. Bundle up for a sleigh ride, or take a sightseeing or dinner cruise aboard a historic paddlewheel boat . Stroll the Shops at Heavenly for boutiques, dining, ice-skating, entertainment, and sweet treats. Ride the Heavenly Gondola to the gorgeous new Tamarack Lodge, open year-round.
Directions: From Heavenly Resort in South Lake Tahoe, head south on U.S. 50 to State 89 and head southeast toward Markleeville. Hope Valley is at the junction of State 89 and State 88. Retrace your route to U.S. 50 and return to Sacramento.
Heavenly Resort. Carve turns in this massive ski resort’s outstanding terrain parks, or enjoy wide cruisers with spectacular lake views. Not a skier? Ride the gondola to Lakeview Lodge , perched at the top Gunbarrel, with moguls the size of Austin Minis. Don’t worry—you can sip a hot toddy and just watch.
Hope Valley. Head southeast of Tahoe to discover one of the Sierra’s loveliest alpine valleys. Slip through the woods on cross-country skis or snowshoes, or take a boisterous dogsled ride. Warm up with cocoa the charming Sorensen’s Resort.
Kirkwood. This fun resort consistently nabs the region’s lightest powder, and prides itself on its “Expedition Kirkwood ” program, including a chance to learn backcountry skills and join off-piste clinics. Have a blast on the tubing hill, then catch the alpenglow on an excitingevening snow cat tour .
Return to Sacramento.